Lutherans have been in the Gettysburg area since at least 1789.
Although records do not indicate the year a worshipping community was established, historians have concluded that an organized congregation of Lutherans was present in Gettysburg at least by 1802 and worshipped in the Courthouse from 1803-1814.
In the early years of the 19th century, Lutherans and the United Church of Christ built a church at High and Stratton Streets. In 1847 the Lutherans decided to build their own church at York and Stratton Streets. A new building was constructed in 1911. An educational wing was added in 1929 after renovation due to an extensive fire to the church in 1928. The church experienced another devastating fire in 1969, caused by arson. The church was rebuilt to the structure existing today. The building exhibits elements of its long history and recent refurbishing: one finds a contemporary worship area in an old Romanesque edifice.
St. James has a history of opening the building to the community. The worship area was used as a field hospital for five weeks following the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Twenty year old Jennie Wade, the only civilian killed during the fighting, was confirmed at St. James. The social room was used as a recreation center for soldiers from Camp Colt. Captain Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commander, and many truckers hauled government supplies through Gettysburg on Route 30 during World War I. The church was offered as a free hospice for families of the men at Camp Colt during the terrible flu epidemic of 1918.
After the fire of 1969, the congregation prayerfully committed to rebuild in the downtown location and to minister to the community in the heart of it. Today, numerous community groups use the facilities on a daily or weekly basis.
In 1997, St. James embarked upon a $1.8 million building and renovation program, “Building to Serve,” in order to provide safer, more accessible and expanded facilities for its members and all community groups which make use of our building. The driving force behind the program was St. James’ commitment to ministries of education, youth, nurture, support, and service through which Christ is made known to the world.
In May 2007, St. James celebrated the burning of this mortgage!
St. James Lutheran Church is a very resilient congregation. It has survived fires, wars, a large variety of pastorates, and the usual changes of time. Although we are an old congregation, with the establishment of industries, the influx of new people, and a vigorous and innovative ministry, St. James is blessed with an abundance of young people and young families. The membership represents a healthy cross section of the community, half town and half rural. Members come from all walks of life. The congregation is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lower Susquehanna Synod.
The close geographic location to the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg and a generous interest in missionaries, has established a strong connection with foreign Christians in our midst and abroad. We maintain close relationships through prayer and correspondence with several pastors in other nations. We also offer financial support to missionaries in difficult circumstances. And, we continue to support the ministries of missionaries around the world including the countries of India, Russia, Liberia, and Nicaragua.
Local community outreach has strengthened our ties to local faith-based ministreis such as Adams Rescue Mission, Gettysburg C.A.R.E.S., the Homeless Shelter, and the South Central Community Action Programs, Inc. (SCCAP) including their Food Pantry. The direct commitment to global and local ministries is reflected in our annual budget as well as through our synod office.
St. James is a diverse and generous congregation that seeks to build disciples who “respond to God’s abundant grace by being hearers, proclaimers and doers of the Word.”
1789 – German Lutherans form the church which becomes St. James.
1812 – Cornerstone laid for new union church.
1826 – Pastor Herbst helps found the Seminary.
1827 – Pastor Herbst helps found the Prepatory School for Seminary.
1832 – Prep school becomes Pennsylvania College.
1835 – English speaking portion separates to form Christ Lutheran Church.
1840 – Church adopts the name St. James. St. James Sunday School organized.
1841 – A church choir is formed.
1848 – St. James builds its own church on present site.
1850 – Arendtsville and Flohrs separate from Gettysburg charge.
1862 – Pastor Essick confirms Jennie Wade.
1863 – Church is used as a hospital during the battle of Gettysburg.
1880 – Church has 526 confirmed members.
1882 – Women’s Missionary Society and the Mite Society are formally organized.
1887 – Church renovated inside and out.
1902 – First pipe organ installed.
1906 – Electric lights installed.
1909 – Phone installed in parsonage. Sixty-five new members received at Easter. Pastor Baker begins publishing “The Messenger.”
1911 – Old church razed; building of new church begins.
1912 – New church dedicated. Men’s Bible Class formed.
1917 – Social rooms opened to soldiers at Camp Colt.
1918 – Women’s Bible Class becomes largest class.
1922 – Using grape juice instead of wine for communion.
1925 – New Austin pipe organ installed.
1928 – Fire severely damages church edifice.
1929 – Sunday School addition added to rebuilt church.
1933 – Depression years. Staff takes 10% cut in pay.
1935 – Eleven hundred and twenty-four persons attend Rally Day.
1936 – Junior Choir formed.
1937 – Pastor first allowed to wear clerical gown during worship.
1939 – St. James sponsors Girl Scout troop.
1943 – First Christmas Candlelight Service held.
1944 – Senior High Choir is formed.
1945 – 50-50 Sunday School Class is organized.
1953 – Luther League replaces Christian Endeavor.
1955 – Heating system converted to gas with installation of gas burners.
1956 – Assistant pastor called on part-time basis.
1957 – Church begins operating on a budget. Two morning services introduced.
1958 – Lutheran Church Women of St. James organized.
1960 – First Christmas Eve service for children held. Annual Vacation Church School is established.
1961 – Full time position of Associate Pastor created.
1962 – Pastor Bishop becomes Associate Pastor.
1967 – St. James hires co-pastors: Frederick A. Foltz & E. Edward Keyser, to start a “team ministry.”
1969 – Fire severely damages St. James Church.
1970 – Cherub Choir formed. Rebuilt church is dedicated.
1975 – Minister of Music created as full-time position, with the hiring of Timothy E. Braband in August 1975.
1976 – Communion being celebrated monthly.
1978 – Youth Minister created as full-time position.
1979 – Martin Luther Choir organized.
1980 – Lutheran pastor and Roman Catholic priest conduct worship service together.
1981 – Koinonia Choir replaces High School Choir.
1982 – Gloria Unger becomes first woman to serve as lay president of Congregation Council.
1983 – Pastors Foltz and Keyser honored for 15 years of “team ministry.” Cherub Choir becomes Cherub Alleluia Choir.
1984 – Picture directory published and distributed. First Stephen ministry class begins training. Carol Hendrix is ordained at St. James.
1985 – Begin using both grape juice and wine as communion elements.
1986 – Elevator installed for the benefit of the handicapped and elderly.
1987 – Computer system is installed and activated. Baptismal and Marriage Enrichment classes started.
1988 – Paid staff of seven working together in harmony and close cooperation.
1989 – Pastors Gregory and Carol Fryer called to serve St. James as Associate Pastor and Youth Minister respectively. Weekly communions started at alternating services. Committee working on a proposal for a Child Care Center to be instituted at St. James. Pastor Bishop’s son wins Nobel prize.
1990 – Bishop Edmiston served as a staff member at St. James for one week. Celebrated 15th year of Minister of Music Timothy Braband. St. James votes to start a Child Care Center.
1991 – St. James votes to allow children three years old to take communion. Vacation Bible School is held jointly by St. James Lutheran, Christ Lutheran, St. Francis Xavier Catholic, and Prince of Peace Episcopal Churches. St. James votes to buy the three adjoining properties on York Street at a cost of $190,451.84. St. James takes immediate possession of the Mary Hess property at 123 York Street to provide space for youth programs.
1992 – Updated Constitution and By-laws adopted. Major changes include:
- Provides for a youth member of Council.
- Church Council may not spend more than $5,000 on a project without congregation approval.
1992 – Hess property renovated and named the Keyser-Foltz Youth House. Saturday evening worship begins.
1993 – Karl Kolumban takes $200 to St. James in India. Cathy Kunkel retires as Church Treasurer after volunteering 16 years.
1994 – St. James begins helping with the Community Soup Kitchen. Child Care begins an after-school program. New Anniversary date is established. Since the first recorded date showing the existence of our church is 1802, St. James has voted to recognize 1802 as the year St. James was founded.
1995 – Adult Choir departs from BWI Airport for 15 day concert and sightseeing tour in Luxembourg, Germany and Austria. St. James votes to call Lisa Leber, 1995 graduate of the local seminary, as associate pastor.
1996 – Social Ministry begins Fifth Sunday Servant event. Congregation votes to accept the recommendations of the Development Committee: demolish the parish house and construct a 12,000 sq. ft. addition to the church.
1997 – New construction begins with the demolition of the parish house. Congregation begins worshiping at the Seminary Chapel.
1998 – New church offices are occupied. Congregation begins worshiping again at St. James church.
2000 – Pastor Leber gave her farewell sermon. The congregation voted to extend a three year call to Pastor Judith A. Cobb as associate pastor.
Average attendance at worship services was 655.
2001 – The St. James website is published.
2002 – Pastor Frederick A. Foltz and Pastor E. Edward Keyser retire after 35 years of service to St. James. The Rev. Judith A. Cobb becomes Transition Pastor of St. James.
2003 – The Rev. Kathryn Vitalis Hoffman, the Rev. Samuel W. Schmitthenner, the Rev. E. Gordon Ross, and the Rev. Charles A. Snyder, Jr. all become Interim Pastors throughout 2003.
2004 – Senior Pastor Michael E. Allwein and Diaconal Minister of Health Barbara K. Schmitthenner installed at St. James.
2005 – Associate Pastor Lois K. Van Orden installed.
2007 – The Rev. Lois Van Orden resigns and the Rev. Robert N. Maddox, Jr. becomes Interim Associate Pastor.
2008 – Associate Pastor Jeanette D. Leisk called in June.
2009 – Diaconal Minister of Health Barbara K. Schmitthenner retires.
2010 – Administrative Assistant Debra Nimtz celebrates 25 years of service to St. James on January 2, 2010. Minister of Music Timothy Braband and Associate Organist Barbara Braband celebrate 35 years of service to St. James on August 1, 2010.
2011 – Kevin M. Cramer called as Youth Minister January 3, 2011.
2012 – Kevin M. Cramer resigns as Youth Minister May 2012. Sally Hoh called as Youth Minister August 2012.
2014 – Pr. Jeanette Leisk’s last day at St. James as Associate Pastor was January 19, 2014. Laura Haupt called as Interim Pastor on June 2, 2014 and ordained at Synod Assembly on June 6, 2014. Congregation Council offered her a contract through May 31, 2015 (her last day at St. James was July 26, 2015).
2015 – Andrew R. Geib called as Associate Pastor on July 27, 2015. He was ordained August 28, 2015 at Trinity Lutheran Church, Mt. Joy, PA and was installed at St. James Lutheran Church on October 4, 2015 at their 10:45 am worship service.
2016 – Jessica (Morton) Smith called as Youth Minister in August.
2017 – Katy Clowney starts as Office Manager on the St. James team in February.
2018 – Festival Trumpet is installed above the Baptistry. It was introduced into worship on Easter Sunday, April 1 and was dedicated on Sunday, June 3 as part of an Organ Refurbishment Dedicatory Concert, which also included the addition of a new 16-foot Posaune reed in the pedal, a 32-foot Contra Bourdon and a 16-foot Principal.
2019 – Youth Minister Jessica Smith leaves her position at St. James on July 28, and joins her husband, Rev. Wes Smith at his new congregation in Indiana. Kristin Slaybaugh joins the St. James staff as Youth Minister in September.
2020 – Minister of Music Timothy Braband retires in August from his position after 45 years of service, accompanied by his wife Barbara Braband who shared her talents with the congregation through the same time. Administrative Assistant Debby Nimtz retires in July from her position after 35 years of service. Staci Grimes joins the St. James staff in the new Administrative Coordinator role in August. COVID-19 impacts the way of the church, and the congregation worships via digitally recorded worship services.
2021 – Minister of Music Jonathan Noel joins the staff in August. Youth Minister Kristin Slaybaugh steps down in August; she was accepted to the ELCA Urban Servant Corps in Denver, CO. As COVID-19 vaccines become available, the church gradually resumes normal worship: first worship services take place in the parking lot, then return to indoor worship services, with masks; 8:15am worship service is live streamed. Saturday 5:30pm worship services resume, September 11, and Adult & Martin Luther Choirs resume singing on Rally Day, September 12.
2022 – Adam Michael, Director of Youth and Family Ministry, joins the St. James staff in January. On February 28 Rev. Michael Allwein retires after 42 years of faithful ministry, 18 of which he served at St. James as lead pastor. Staci Grimes resigns her role at the end of March as Administrative Coordinator in order to take a position at Gettysburg College.
*Much of this information has been sourced from an article written by St. James member, David Flesner.
Building For Worship Originally published in the Lutheran Historical Society of the Mid-Atlantic’s Newsletter [Volume 24, Number 2, Fall 2013].